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Curvy Kili Crew
September Update: Hiking Gear
Let’s talk gear! The right gear for our hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro is essential to a successful trek. In fact, before we leave for the hike, our guides do a gear check to make sure we are prepared and will stay warm and comfortable throughout the trip. For Kilimanjaro or any hike for the matter, good gear can be the difference between waking up warm and well rested or shivering yourself to sleep. It can be the difference between walking comfortably down the trail or your shoulders and back screaming at you with every step. Unfortunately, the outdoor industry has been slow to include a wider range of clothing and gear, meaning, for us, finding good quality gear can be the difference between simply getting out on that trail or not.
The proper clothes are some of the most important gear we can take on our trip. Clothes can be tricky because we want something that will keep us warm, and at the same time wicking away the moisture to keep us dry. Especially on Mount Kilimanjaro in March when temperatures can drop below freezing. Which brings us to the dreaded shopping trip, because no matter how many times I try the largest size shirt in the store, it never fits. Activewear for training seems to be a bit easier to find, but heavier items such as snow pants and jackets are more of a challenge. The problem we find is that most stores do not carry large enough clothes to fit our wide range of shapes and sizes. Once we get those pants over our booty and hips, will they fit around the waist? Will they be long enough or short enough? Will the waist be high enough to fit comfortably? People have suggested, and we have tried on men’s clothing, but they just aren’t made to fit a woman’s figure. Surprisingly, quite a few brands do carry a wider range of sizes and lengths, but they are not available in stores. Which is where we have found our clothing paradise – online shopping. While not ideal, because of wait times and the possibility of having to return it for another size, online shopping has opened up a whole new world for plus-sized gear. We’ve found multiple websites and brands, such as Columbia and REI, that offer more options and larger sizes which have allowed us to find comfortable, well-fitting clothes to get us out on the trails!
The next piece of gear we’ve found to be a challenge is backpacks. There is a wide range of options for packs out there – brands, colors, carrying capacity. The issue we’ve encountered with almost every backpack is the hip belt. No matter the brand, we’ve found that most belts are not long enough to comfortably fit on our hips without squeezing us too tightly if they fit at all. It is important for the hip belt to fit properly, as it will take some of the stress off of your shoulders and distribute the weight evenly to prevent back pain during the hike. Fortunately, we have contacted a couple major brands of backpacks, Osprey and Gregory, and have found a solution. They are willing to provide us with waist strap extensions for little to no additional cost. It is great to find that these companies are willing to work with us so that we can have a comfortable and successful experience!
The last piece of gear we have found issues with is sleeping bags. These are another important piece of gear, especially to keep us warm on those cold nights, as we get higher in elevation. Again, with all of the options out there, you would think this would be an easy shopping trip. Sleeping bags come in various lengths but aren’t necessarily wide enough to provide a comfortable sleeping situation. Those few extra inches in the hip and shoulder area can really make all of the difference in how well we sleep. Luckily, we have found a few companies that do carry sleep bags with extra width, providing a much more comfortable sleeping experience.
Although we’ve encountered quite a few challenges when it comes to clothing and gear, we’ve also found solutions. We have gotten a lot of help from stores like REI and simply reaching out to companies and asking what their options are. Although there needs to be more options out there for people of every shape and size, asking questions has gotten us one step closer to finding great gear and having a successful trek to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.